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Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University Students Association. Volume 40, Number 3. March 14, 1977.

Review — The Tempest


The Tempest

Director Paul Maunder conceives of The Tempest as "containing the essence of the paradox we are". His production of the play at Unity Threatre is indeed paradoxical, although perhaps not in the sense he meant it.

For Mr Maunder, the paradox (if we are to believe his programme notes) is the tension between the play's "images of hope and the seeds of destruction". He succeeds in maintaining this paradox in the production by underlining the dramatic tension between the forces of order, personified in the character of Prospero, and the forces of disruption and chaos.

Yet in the Unity production this latter category is less personified in the rather weak characterisation of the villians of the piece than in the comic/grotesque trio of Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban. It is the forcefulness of their comic presence, together with the grotesque power of the dark Caliban, which provides the dramatic opposition to the lofty order propagated by Prospero.

That this tension is sustained throughout the play reflects creditably on the performance of Bernie Grice as Prospero; he succeeds in attaining the degree of grandeur which his singular role demands. Similarly John Anderson as Caliban fills the immense presence required to generate a dramatic force capable of matching or threatening that of Prospero. The rest of the cast fall somewhat short of the competance of these two actors, with the exception perhaps of Fiona Lindsay as Ariel, although she tends at times to be a little stiff.

Jim Moriarty as the love-struck Ferdinand only just avoids the melodrama which is, as it were, the occupational hazard of the role. Jonathan Dennis as Stephano, the uncouth drunken butler, somewhat overdoes his phoney Italian accent and lacks the dramatic sensitivity which is required especially of uncouth comic parts. This sensitivity is to some extent attained by the performance of our very own Richard Mays as Trinculo the jester. His thoughtful interpretation of the role as the archetypal Fool does much to point the function of the comic roles as counterbalance to the Wise Old Man archetype of Prospero.

And yet the sense of paradox which Mr Maunder claims for his production remains very tencous. The oppositions never seem to unfold in terms of characterisation but rather by a sometimes crude juxtapositioning of dramatic effect which relies heavily on the ingenious set design. This, together with lack of polish in individual performances, gives the production at times a certain roughness. These objections apart, the production is laudable in its ambition, and in the extent to which it fulfils this ambition.

— Allan Smith